Frank Miller opened The Spirit panel at the San Diego Comic-Con, taking the stage and recalling the story of his long-running friendship with sequential art legend Will Eisner. Miller’s words were heartfelt to the point that he sounded somewhat choked up in discussing his departed friend.
Joined by producer Deborah Del Prete, there was a short talk about Miller’s vision of the project, bringing about The Spirit in a manner that would capture Eisner’s original intent if not matching the look exactly.
The same trailer we’ve already seen was screened first and the audience seemed to respond pretty positively. Miller used the trailer to segue directly into the first introduction of an actor, Samuel L. Jackson, who plays the villianous Octopus in the film.
Miller and Jackson joked back and forth that the hardest part of their job was coming up with bigger and bigger guns. The Octopus begins with large weapons in the first place but Jackson insisted that each time he appeared, they be larger and larger to the point that enormous made-up ones had to be built from hand.
Jackson also joked with the audience about playing Nick Fury. “You know, when I was a kid,” he said, deadpan serious, “Nick Fury was a white man. I’m so glad he evolved into something that finally made sense to me.”
“But don’t worry!” he promised, “You, too, can grow up to be a black man!”
Jaime King and Gabriel Macht joined the stage next and the first all-new footage was screened. This bit showed Eva Mendes as Sand Saref in a skin-tight wetsuit. She battles with the Octopus on the edge of the water and then dives underneath where she and a diver are trying to retrieve a sunken chest. They dodge bullets from the Octopus’ gun, though the diver is clipped in the arm. With the Octopus jumping in the water after them, the two swim and come to the surface inside some kind of darkened building. The diver says to Mendes, “It’s the Octopus. You know what he can do.”
She replies, “Shut up and bleed.”
Miller explained to the crowd that the scene was shot with a new kind of camera that allows for enough frames per-second to simulate the floating-effect of hair in water. Miller told Mendes to “act like the Flash” so that her movements could be slowed down in the final version to simulate underwater bits.
Miller talked a bit about the basic plot of the film; Police officer Denny Colt is nearly killed by a bullet wound but awakens to find himself in “a new reality,” able to do things he couldn’t before. In addition to incredible endurance, Colt’s pheromones have been altered, causing mutual attraction between himself and any woman he meets.
“A major part of the story is how tough he is and why’s he’s so tough,” offered Miller.
On that note, Miller showed a clip of The Spirit with Sarah Paulson’s Ellen Dolan in an office. She comes on to him, telling him, “Keep the mask on. Something tells me it might be better that way.”
Ellen tells the Spirit, “But we don’t even know your real name.”
To that he responds, “I’ll tell you my real name,” just as a Detective shows up with an new assignment and a heavily Baltimore-accented sexy assistant. After they all leave together, Dolan furiously throws a scalpel into their exit door.
Frank explained that the Octopus’ henchman are all clones and — as a result — have limited intelligence. All are played by Louis Lombardi and are consistently hurt or killed throughout the film in creative ways.
He also stressed the “nevertime” of the setting. Though there are a lot of references to the ’40s and ’50s, cell phones still exist and time is wholly indeterminate.
The final clip features the Octopus battling the Spirit in sewage. Jackson hits him with a severed head, a cinderblock and then a giant wrench. The Spirit seems to get the upper for the moment, beating the Octopus into the brown water when the villain pops up again from out of nowhere and slams a toilet down on his foe. With the ring of the seat, stuck around the Spirit, the Octopus laughs uproariously.
“Come on,” he shouts, “Toilets are always funny.”